“Whipsaw” is a logging term, a two-person saw that requires a lot of teamwork. There’s a perfect one, 5 feet long and rusty, hanging above the bar in Ellensburg’s newest establishment, Whipsaw Brewing.
“It’s a saw from the ‘good ’ol days,’ and it’s the namesake of the brewery,” says Charlie Tierney, co-owner of Whipsaw with his wife Debbie.
“Drinking our cut, sharing the rest” is Whipsaw’s motto, painted by hand on the brewery’s cement floor and emblazoned across the back of their new t-shirts.
Whipsaw is more than a name and a motto, it’s the essence of the new brewery.
“We wanted to keep a logging name, and the saw stands for who we are and what we came from,” Debbie says.
HANDCRAFTED WITH LOVE
Before opening Whipsaw, Charlie worked for more than 30 years as a logger in Grays Harbor County and surrounding areas. He has deep family roots in Ellensburg - his grandparents have lived here for over seventy years.
“When we finally decided to move forward with the business we decided where we wanted to be,” Debbie says, adding that one of their two daughters lives in Ellensburg as well. As it’s described on their website, the couple “sold their home, cashed in their life savings, and made the move to Ellensburg to fulfill that dream.”
Just the like teamwork it takes to run a whipsaw, the brewery is a family business. Kids, dogs and the under-aged are welcomed. It’s not unusual on a weekday morning to find Charlie and Debbie’s grandaughter playing with her toys on the floor while her grandparents work.
Charlie and Debbie wanted to contribute to their new community by buying everything locally and outsourcing their labor. Whipsaw is the result of many hands. Their friend, John Graf, a principal at a local elementary school, built the impressive, thick wooded bar by hand. You see handcrafted woodwork throughout the brewery, from the tables to the decorative accents and even the corner shelving in the bathroom.
Charlie’s brother built the taps himself, and Jeff Grimness from Ellensburg is now Whipsaw’s “resident handyman.” When you walk into the brewery, you fell like you’re in a place where you can just hang out.
“Work is so much fun It’s a blast. I get lost in time,” Charlie beams.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Currently Whipsaw has five beers on tap, and six total that are kept on tap at all times. Homemade root beer and ginger ale are also available for the under-aged, or the under-appreciated, such as designated drivers, who Debbie makes sure get their first drink free.
Charlie has plans for three more specialty beers coming out within the next few months. The Whipsaw uses a three-barrel system to create their brews. After crunching the oats and hops outside, he brings them in to soak in three huge drums in the back of the brewery. They look like silos, or giant jugs. You can smell the booze when you open the door, and it’s cold in there.
Charlie is mostly a self-taught bewer who make the beer that he and his wife like, they admit with a chuckle. Debbie’s favorite? The Buzz On Blackberry, and once he’d made her “her beer” he got the go-ahead to brew his own. Charlie is harder to pin down on his favorite -- the man is a beer connoisseur - but, if he had to choose, “an IPA or a stout, or a smashed blonde.”
The Whipsaw hosts the Red Pickle food truck out front during business hours, but customers with the drunchies can order in from any local eatery, just like at home.
Charlie and Debbie knew that wanted to start their business inside of Ellensburg’s city limits, but they didn’t know exactly where. Driving around one day, they saw a sign outside of a building on North Wenas Street, just south of Water near Brad & Burke Heating and Air, “Building for rent, practically free.”
That’s all it took, and they say they’re not worried about it being a bit outside of town. “Location was important, but we had to be able to make it work,” Debbie says. The physical space, which had a lot of requirements for the brewery process, was also envisioned as more of a homey place than a storefront.
Asked to describe Whipsaw in one word, Charlie says, appearing a bit emotional, “Inviting. We are sincere from the heart.”
Story by Marissa Martin: The Pulse Magazine, CWU | Winter 2016 | Issue Two